Zimbabwe: Expect Results From 3.pm - ZEC

Zimbabwe: Expect Results From 3.pm - ZEC

"I came here last night, I slept outside of the gate, because I was afraid of the queue since I want to vote early", said 23-year-old Rolta Taika.

"He (Mr Mugabe) is a citizen of this country", he said.

Past elections were marred by violence, intimidation and irregularities, but Mnangagwa, a former enforcer for Mugabe who says he now represents change, has promised that this election will be free and fair. Popular amongst Zimbabwe's youth, Nelson Chamisa's MDC Alliance party has invigorated the campaign.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission said it will announce final results within five days.

Early results from the elections - presidential, parliamentary and local - are expected Tuesday, and full results are due by Saturday.

Pre-election opinion polls gave Mnangagwa, a dour former spy chief known as "the Crocodile" for his reputation for ruthless cunning, a slim lead over Chamisa.

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However if neither party wins over 50% of the vote, a runoff between Chamisa and Mnangagwa must be held on September 8, which would not include the other 21 candidates on the presidential ballot.

Mugabe emerged on the eve of the election to announce he would vote for the opposition, surprising Mnangagwa who accused him of striking a deal with Chamisa.

Support for Zanu-PF historically has been deepest in rural areas, particularly the party's Mashonaland heartland, where more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe's 17 million people live. A seriously flawed process could signal more stagnation.

ZANU-PF has had an iron grip on power since independence from British colonial rule in 1980, and victory for the opposition would be a major upset.

"Victory is certain, the people have spoken", Chamisa said after casting his ballot in Harare as a cheering crowd chanted: "President!"

He voted with his wife Grace and daughter Bona in Highfield, a high-density township in Harare.

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Inside polling stations, voters were given three ballot papers: one for their presidential pick, another for member of parliament and a third for local councillor. What began with optimism crumbled into repression of the opposition, alleged vote-rigging, violent land seizures from white farmers and years of global sanctions. African Unions attended the opening of polling stations elsewhere. It has denied Mr Chamisa's previous allegations of bias. He holds degrees in political science, worldwide relations and law, and also recently qualified as a pastor. Younger voters are expected to be key - nearly half of those registered are under the age of 35.

Worldwide observers have been cross-checking the ballots, to see if there was no vote-rigging in yesterday's election. On July 4, the army vowed to remain neutral in the elections, despite having been an influential actor in the removal of Mugabe last November.

Holding a peaceful vote that is accepted as fair at home and overseas is essential if Zimbabwe is to exit painful sanctions and secure the donor funding and investment needed to stem chronic cash shortages. "We are disturbed by false reports alleging that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is going to be used by ZANU-PF to rig the posted vote".

In the video, Mr. Mnangagwa urged people to vote for him and his ruling party. Let us be respectful, tolerant and love one another.

"We will sink or swim together", he added. "I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality", Mr Mugabe said.

"I can not vote for those who tormented me".

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